Direction: Left to Right
by: Hideyuki Kikuchi (story), Jun Suemi (art)
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Type: Series, Novel
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-fi, Supernatural, Seinen
After a devastating earthquake that left most of Japan in ruins, the district ward of Shinjuku in Tokyo has opened up a doorway into another dimension—becoming the halfway-house suspended between the mortal world and the supernatural. Setsura Aki, undercover P.I., is considered the best "man hunter" in the business. He allies himself with friend and rival, Doctor Mephisto—a wizard of physical and spiritual surgery. Together, they battle the evil forces that overrun the city. Coming from the deepest and darkest parts of China, four immortal demons, led by the Princess of vampires, have surmounted four thousand years of space and time to seize control of Shinjuku and make it their own. It is up to Setsura and Mephisto to uncover their new formidable foes’ dark plans for the city. Can the duo stop them before they plunge the living populace into a new level of fear and slavery none can escape?
At the moment there are two main good guys, Doctor Mephisto, and Setsura Aki. Both unique, freaky, and frankly awesome characters in their own right.
Doctor Mephisto, also called the Demon Doctor is, supposedly, able to heal any injury or illness. Whether it’s physical or mental. He runs the main hospital and has a very weird set of morals. He’s a very prideful person who is more than willing to kill somebody to hide the fact that he screwed up. He’s supremely beautiful, and women have a tendency to pass out just from looking at him.
Setsura Aki is just as as weird in his own right. Equally as handsome as Mephisto he runs a Senbei store by day, The rest of the time he run’s a detective agency and is considered the best P.I. around, who is both respected and feared by everyone. Also like Mephisto there’s more to him than meets the eye, as he has a mysterious split personality that comes up from time to time.
On the big evil side of things we have a mysterious quartet, three vampires and another.
The three vampires, Princess, Ryuuki and Shuuran. The Princess is given a rather interesting, if vague and in-depth introduction, as we’re told all the names she’s used through out history, empires she’s destroyed etc etc, yet we never really get to learn anything of substance about her. She’s totally evil, on a scale never seen before, totally beautiful and debauched. That’s pretty much all we learn about her this volume.
The same applies to Shuuran and Ryuuki, though we do get some more personality information. Ryuuki is considered “old school” in that he follows the age old traditions of vampires. He’s also, after reading the first volume, the weakest of the big evils. Though this seems in part to be because he sticks to a moral code. Shuuran however seems to do whatever she likes so long as she gets her fill of blood and sex.
KiKiou is, by appearance, an old man. While he’s not a vampire it’s not revealed as to what he really is. He’s extremely powerful, and while we don’t get to see the full extent of his abilities in this volume, what we do get to see is rather frightening.
Okay lets get the warning out of the way, If you’re expecting another Vampire D style story, forget it. Kikuchi takes Yashakiden to all new highs (or lows depending on your view), as such it’s most definitely not a book for youngsters or young adults.
Here in the UK a lot of store have been reluctant to carry the series because of it’s graphic nature, which includes violence and sex, in both story and art. Most stores only order it in, in my case I found volume one in my local store after the person who ordered it never picked it up. In short, if your easily offended, don’t like sex being thrown in your face, or masochism, you may want to consider skipping this.
Okay, lets get on. All I can say is HELL YEAH!!! This volume was awesome on so many levels. I’ve read a few Vampire Hunter D novels, as well as the first volume of Wicked City, so I thought I had a grasp on Kikuchi’s writing style. Yashakiden blows all my preconceptions out of the water. It’s darker, grittier, sexier, and more spooky than anything else of his I’ve read to date.
The basic premise is of four ancient demons coming to take Shinjuku as their own, and of Mephisto and Aki’s battle to prevent it. The way that Kikuchi starts the story is stunning, and grabs you right from the outset.
All of the characters we get introduced to are awesome, well developed and thought out before they were put to paper (or that was my impression). Unusually, almost from the first page, the big evil is introduced. Usually creators spend some time setting up the heroes and settings. Kikuchi opted to introduce the big evil, and then to build up the characters over the course of the volume.
As a result of this we get an interesting blend, since we don’t have a real idea of the characters when things first hit the fan, we learn about them at the same time as we learn about the evil guys.
I like this approach, it gives the novel a unique feel to it that further heightens the sense of unease I felt reading it. What I mean is that while I knew that Aki and Mephisto were the heroes of the story, it’s not until later on that this is confirmed. Rather at one point I thought that they were going to be fighting each other.
Kikuchi does have a bit of a problem though, and it’s one I first noticed in Vampire Hunter D. He does tend to suffer from what I call Tolkienitis, that is he gets bogged down in descriptions much like how Tolkien did in Lord of the Rings.
This means we do get places that are overly wordy in their descriptions. While I understand the reason for this, Kikuchi is wanting to paint a picture that’s as clear as possible for the readers, it does mean that readers can feel trapped in the environments. Thankfully this only happens a few times in Yashakiden.
The main thing I love though is the story and the way that it flows. Kikuchi pulls no punches, at times it’s crass, at others sexy and at others both together. It’s like he took of the limitations on his creativity and just decided to write the story he wanted to, regardless of the audience. As a result we get one of the best fantasy/sc-fi novels I’ve ever read.
His writing doesn’t feel forced or strained, something I noticed in a few Vampire Hunter D novels, it flows free and fast.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s flaws, ‘cause it does. For me, the only one of a major issue is the way he handles Aki and Mephisto. Both Aki and Mephisto have bizarre demonic split personalities that come to the surface at times and have “confrontations”. However the way these are written it’s very hard to discern that the personality change has happened, and can leave you wondering what the hell is going on for a bit, especially when it first happens.
I’m hoping that future volumes of the series will not only carry on with the story, but also delve into the history of Aki and Mephisto. I really want to know more about them. Either way I’m looking forward to reading volume two and three.
Suemi’s art is one aspect of the novels I’m not so sure about. Sometimes the art is okay, and other times it looks horrible. Though I will admit I like the cover design. Though I really don’t see Aki like that, the impression I got from the novel was different to Suemi’s version.
*bows to DMP* Congratulations Digital Manga on a near perfect release for Yashakiden volume one. Near perfect because there are a few minor things I didn’t like (and lets be fair there’s no such thing as perfect hehe).
Firstly the bit’s a I didn’t like. The map at the front of the book is badly positioned and frankly it’s mostly unreadable. This would have been better as a pull out page. Also, a minor thing, a glossary of terms would have been nice, if only to tell me what the hell a Senbei Store was. That was bugging me for ages lol, but there were a few other regional terms and things that could have done with a glossary entry.
Beyond this however (and yes, those are minor quirks of my own), DMP did an absolutely freaking masterful job. One aspect I can not praise enough is the size of the volume. It’s a little bigger width wise than normal novels, and as a result DMP opted to use a larger font with wider spacing. This was a god sent that made for an easier reading experience. However it also just looks so much better.
The other thing I have to give them high praise for is the lack of censorship. Earlier on I said Kikuchi let his writing run free, and I can easily see the temptation of DMP to alter the text so it’s less graphic, all in a bit to increase sales (as we frequently see happening with other publishers). Thankfully they don’t, and leave Kikuchi’s story in it’s unadulterated, and graphic form.
Excellent work DMP, the result is a novel that I love and have already recommended to people.